The NBA Finals Refs: Is This All A Practical Joke?

Sometimes the NBA just baffles us. I mean, really. After the first two games of the NBA finals produced some of the poorest officiating of the NBA playoffs, how does David Stern answer? Well, I think he's just screwing with us now.

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For his own amusement, to prove a point, whatever. Our refs for Game 3 will be Danny Crawford, Bennett Salvatore, and, yes, Bill Kennedy, the man infamous for a supposed bias against the Boston Celtics. And given Salvatore's atrocious history, you have to wonder: why even include a good ref like Danny Crawford in there? Why not just throw in Joey Crawford to complete the triumvirate? God.

More ranting after the jump.

As an NBA fan, this really sucks. I turned down tickets to Stephen Strasburg's debut tonight, mainly because I wanted to watch the NBA Finals. This year's series has that much potential. And now we have to worry about the whole thing descending into farce, where the refs become the storyline.

Mind you, it's not necessarily a matter of reality—because in reality, Tom Ziller made a convincing argument that Bill Kennedy doesn't have anything against the Celtics.

But the perception of injustice creates its own reality: A place where NBA fans talk about this stuff, and hem and haw over how much influence the ref selections have on the outcomes. Tim Donaghy's probably lying, but what if he's not completely wrong? The biggest problem is that the NBA allows this background chatter to continue by pretending there's not a problem in the first place, and that voices like Donaghy just don't exist.

See, the NBA probably thinks those first two games were totally normal. But as John Hollinger wrote yesterday for ESPN (insider), this is NOT normal:

...there's a bigger story here, and it gets back to [a] little piece of conventional wisdom. Although there's a general belief that the game is officiated more loosely in the playoffs, you would have a hard time proving it.

These Finals, obviously, provide barrels of contradictory evidence. Through two games we've had 112 fouls and 134 free throw attempts, both of which vastly exceed the league's regular-season averages of 41.7 and 49.1 per game, respectively. Since neither the Celtics nor the Lakers were particularly high-foul teams in the regular season, it's not a case of unusual teams skewing the averages.

Like, seriously? After the controversy created by the first two games' officiating, the NBA is going to take the chance inherent to assigning Bill Kennedy to an NBA Finals game in Boston?

It makes the league look idiotic.

Because forget the conspiracy talk... These are just facts. Instead of trying to quell the backstory, the league has assigned one of the most polarizing refs in the NBA (Salvatore), and by far the most polarizing ref in Boston (Kennedy) to work the biggest game of the season so far. Whether they actually affect the outcomes of games is debatable, but fact is, the perception is out there, and the NBA does nothing to fight it.

Regardless of whether you buy the theory that these are bad or biased refs, you can't dispute that NBA fans think they're bad and/or biased. Here's to hoping, for everyone's sake, that the perception doesn't gain anymore traction after tonight's Game 3.

But then, even if it does, will David Stern even care?

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